The United States Senate has passed a bill to posthumously award Emmett Till and his mother Mamie Till-Mobley the Congressional Gold Medal.
Till was tortured and murdered by two white men, K.W. Milam and his half-brother Roy Bryant, after Bryant’s wife, Carolyn, claimed he whistled to her at a grocery store in Drew, Mississippi. At the time, Emmett was visiting family in rural Mississippi from Chicago over the summer. Four days later, white supremacists kidnapped Emmett, brutally beat him and lynched him. Using barbed wire, the men then tied a large metal fan to Emmett’s neck and tossed him in the Tallahatchie River.
Like many killings of Black people still today, the men were acquitted by an all-white jury months after the teen was killed, even though Emmett’s uncle was an eyewitness to the murder. While devastated by her son’s murder, Till-Mobley took it upon herself to honor Emmett by dedicating herself to social justice. Till-Mobley’s decision to have an open-casket ceremony for Emmett’s funeral shook the world and opened closed eyes to the harsh realities of racism in America. “I wanted the world to see what they did to my boy,” Till-Mobley, who passed away in 2003, was recorded saying.
This past Tuesday, a bill that was introduced in 2020 to honor Till and his mother was set into law. “At the age of 14, Emmett Till was abducted and lynched at the hands of white supremacists. His gruesome murder still serves as a solemn reminder of the terror and violence experienced by Black Americans throughout our nation’s history,” said Sen. Cory Booker, one of the sponsors of the bill.
“The courage and activism demonstrated by Emmett’s mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, in displaying to the world the brutality endured by her son helped awaken the nation’s conscience, forcing America to reckon with its failure to address racism and the glaring injustices that stem from such hatred,” he continued.
The efforts of Till-Mobley’s Emmett Till Justice Campaign led to the re-investigation of Emmett’s murder and the passing of the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act of 2007, which was passed in 2007. The law legally requires the Justice Department and the FBI to investigate cold cases from the civil rights era.
Just last month, the DOJ Civil Rights Division and the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Mississippi announced that it had closed its investigation into a witness’s alleged recantation of her account of the events leading up to the murder of Till.
The government’s re-investigation found no new evidence suggesting that either the woman or any other living person was involved in Till’s abduction and murder.